Sen. Thom Tillis Signals Hold on Gigi Sohn’s FCC Nomination

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) (Image credit: U.S, Senate)

A spokesperson for Sen. Thom Tillis signaled to Next TV late Monday that he will do his best to keep Democratic nominee Gigi Sohn off the Federal Communications Commission.

Also: Gigi Sohn‘s FCC Nomination Could Face Hold Threats

“Senator Tillis is going to do everything he can to stop Gigi Sohn’s confirmation, including putting a hold,” Tillis’s communications director, Adam Webb, said in an email.

Late last month, Tillis (R-N.C.), ranking member on the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee, asked President Joe Biden to withdraw Sohn's nomination, saying he had many concerns but copyright was chief among them.

Webb did say why the hold was being placed. In asking the president to withdraw her nomination, Tillis pointed to her “history as an anti-copyright activist” — including her support for TV signal streamer Locast, which a court said was not eligible for the copyright exemption it asserted. But he is also an opponent of Title II-based net neutrality rules and a source familiar with both issues said that Title II support was also a big factor.

In his letter to the president opposing Sohn, Tillis echoed broadcasters' concerns about Sohn's directorship role at TV station signal streamer Locast, whose business model of nonprofit streaming without paying a fee to content providers a court ruled violated copyright protections. “In Ms. Sohn’s current position at Georgetown's Institute for Technology and Law Policy,” he said, “she condemned media companies for trying to protect their content from unauthorized streaming from Locast.”

Sohn pointed out at her hearing that Locast was shuttered, its assets being sold, and would likely be history by year's end.

Tillis also complained about Sohn's role as advisor to then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, whom she advised to open up cable set-top boxes “in ways that would guarantee a surge in piracy,” the senator said.

Wheeler did tee up an open set-top box proposal in 2016, but failed to secure the necessary three Democratic votes, in part because then commissioner Jessica Rosenworce, now acting chair, did not agree with Wheeler’s approach.

Tillis said that as someone who believes in strong intellectual property protections, Sohn's record is disqualifying. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.